Tattoo Illustration

Model and Tattoo artist, Blanka Bartošová, is a self-taught tattoo artist pursuing her love for illustration and body adornment on the island of Malta. Here she gives us a little intro into how she got started and the effect tattoos have on her modelling career.

Model and Tattoo artist, Blanka Bartošová, is a self-taught tattoo artist pursuing her love for illustration and body adornment on the island of Malta.

Here she gives us a little intro into how she got started and the effect tattoos have on her modelling career.

What are your favourite subjects to tattoo and how do you approach designing a custom piece?

In general, I like to get inspired by nature. I‘m fascinated by lizards, snakes, fish, birds and other animals that are dressed in different geometric patterns such as scales or feathers. Visiting botanical gardens and studying plants also brings me a great source of inspiration. People often ask me how do I come up with all those ideas, and to tell you the truth; they are usually already there! It just needs a good eye to spot them and make them more visible on the paper.

Usually, I pick something and make plenty of studies of it; draw it from all possible angles and sizes to make sure I know the anatomy and proportions well. This later allows me to fit it perfectly on my client’s body, using the shape of his or her muscles. I always prefer to adjust the stencil with a freehand sketch to make sure it will look good on the body flow.

What sparked your desire to take up this hobby and turn it into a job?

I think it all started when I was about five when I would always draw on other kids in pre-school with coloured markers. But back then my ambitions came to a quick end because mums of my friends were complaining that they couldn’t wash the paint off from their children… Luckily my inner Van Gogh didn‘t give up!

Later the idea came to me when I finished University and moved to Barcelona where I worked as a full-time model. I had a lot of free time and big problems with insomnia so I would spend many nights drawing. My roommates started to suggest that I start tattooing because they liked the sketches that I left all over our apartment.

Unfortunately, finding a tattoo shop that would give me an apprentice wasn’t easy in Spain, so I bought a tattoo machine and started learning by myself at home. I come from a doctors’ family and I grew up running around hospitals where my mum worked – so I knew how to deal with disinfectants and other hygienic issues… But I would not recommend that to anyone because you can cause a big mess with that!

Starting as a tattoo artist was hard for me when I came to Malta. I didn’t know anyone on the island, but I was incredibly lucky to meet the three gentlemen from Black Eye Specialist tattoo studio in Sliema ( who liked my style and agreed to teach me. I can’t be more grateful and happy that I was given this opportunity because I know that there are plenty of artists like me who might never get such chance just because they are not in the right place in the right moment.

We have known each other for a couple of summers now through the fashion industry. Locally you have quickly gained fame in the modelling industry. Do you feel that sporting some tats has worked against you when booking modelling jobs?

This is a question which people ask me very often. The modelling industry is developing and changing very fast, so nowadays you can spot tattooed models from time to time, but still, it is very rare. I personally have never had problems with my tattoos, but the truth is that they are not on very visible places and I can hide them easily. Usually, people think that it is easy to cover tats with makeup, but that is not quite the truth. As a model, I have to change clothes very often on the set and with makeup, on my arms or legs, I would make the dresses dirty, which would probably be a nightmare for the designers and stylists.

A few years ago I had a lot of fun when I worked in Asia because clients were often thinking that my watercolour tattoos are just painted and asked me to wash them in the bathroom.

Your illustrations are extremely detailed and linear. Which would you say is your first love: Tattooing or illustration?

For me, tattooing and illustration are very similar, because both are a form of drawing. The illustration is very relaxing for me and since my drawings are so detailed, making them is almost like a meditation. Sometimes I can draw the whole day and night completely forgetting about the time passing by and I like the freedom which paper and pen give me. Tattooing is more challenging, mainly because I need to adapt the clients’ ideas and everything must be done precisely.

Since the time I lived in Indonesia, where I came to meet local tribes and got introduced with their traditional, slowly disappearing, tattoos, I also became very interested in history and anthropology of tattoo art. What fascinates me, is that even in the 21st century, when almost all of us have decorated our bodies with some pictures or piercings, tattoos can still be a taboo in certain areas. It can often put ‘us’ in a wrong view of others. Just think, if I have a tattoo of a pineapple on my leg, people would probably consider it cute. But if I would put the same tattoo on my forehead, people would be convinced that I‘m nuts. And all that just because of placement!

What fascinates me on tattoos is the importance of the message a small picture on someone’s body can carry. I‘m very interested in discovering the symbolism of it, the different historical and cultural meanings of different pictures and placements. In a broad perspective, tattooing is basically a different language that connects people and I‘m very happy to get a chance to be a part of this.